8 years ago

Volume 19 Issue 8 - May 2014

  • Text
  • Choir
  • Toronto
  • Jazz
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  • Concerts
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  • Musical
  • Choral
  • Singers
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Includes the 2014 Canary Pages directory of choirs.


SEEING ORANGE / MUSIC EDUCATIONMUSIC MONDAY,MAY 5, 2014:CALL TO ACTIONALLAN PULKERIt is no secret that governments and educational bureaucracies formany years now have been resorting to the reduction and evenelimination of music programs in order to cut costs in a way thatis not perceived by the general public as weakening public education.At the same time there is an ever-growing abundance of researchindicating enormous benefits to school-age students from activeparticipation in music study and performance. These facts notwithstanding,the gulf, between the incontrovertible evidence as to thebenefits of participation in music and the perceptions and understandingof the general public, politicians and education bureaucrats,continues to widen.By the early 1990s educational programs nationwide werebecoming so threatened that in 1992 representatives of 20 organizationscame together to share ideas to improve the state of musiceducation in Canada and form the Coalition for Music Education inCanada. It quickly began working with parents and other concernedcitizens to address concerns about music in schools.Late in April I spoke to Holly Nimmons, executive director of theCoalition for Music Education, beginning by asking why educationsystem bureaucrats and politicians continue to fly in the face of theevidence for the value of music as part of education.Typically, she said, the erosion or elimination of school musicprograms is done as a way of saving money and balancing the budget.It is a short-term, stop-gap solution which has long-term consequencesin the lives of students. Music programs transform lives,but at the same time, have no measurable cash value. Because thelearning of music and musical skills is sequential, reducing or eliminatingthe learning of music at one stage of education makes it difficultor impossible to pick it up later, effectively putting an end to thelife-transforming effects that could have been possible for the studentsaffected by these program cuts.Part of the disconnect between the research and the actual “deliveryof programs,” Nimmons suggested, may originate in the misconceptionthat the raison d’être of music programs is to produce professionalmusicians, when their real purpose is to produce, in a way thatno other discipline can, creative problem solvers with highly developedanalytical, verbal and mathematical skills.So there appears to be not only a wall of ignorance but also chronicmisunderstanding of the role and purpose of music in education,which together allow for its being perceived as so specialized as to beirrelevant - or at least non-essential - to the education of the risinggeneration.How, I asked, does the Coalition go about advocating for musiceducation in the face of this situation?“Education of the public is the central task,” she says. So theCoalition conducts research on the state of music education, makes itsmessage available to people on its website, and connects with otherorganizations which share its objectives, such as MusiCounts, MusicCanada and others.A recent example of this sort of collaboration was a statementreleased jointly just weeks ago by the Coalition, MusiCounts and MusicCanada, encouraging the Vancouver Board of Education to reconsidera decision to eliminate certain instrumental music programs. Thatdecision, Nimmons told me, has already been reversed.One such major annual initiative, central to the Coalition’s mission,will take place this year on Monday, May 5. This is the annual MusicCol. Chris Hadfield (Ret.), pictured above on the ISS, returns to MusicMonday with the song I.S.S (Is Somebody Singing) May 5th.Monday Celebration. Launched in 2005 by the Coalition for MusicEducation, Music Monday is the world’s largest single event dedicatedto raising awareness of music education.Nimmons was quick to point out that the event raises awareness,excitement and commitment to music education at both the nationaland the local level. Nationally there will be a webcast, available liveat noon, EDT, but the focus of the webcast will be the regional eventsin ten cities across Canada from Gander to Whitehorse, representingmusic education from each region. This live showcase will includeperformances by school groups and local musicians, messages fromprominent Canadian musicians, politicians and leaders, and inspirationand encouragement from local youth, parents and industryadvocates.Some very influential voices will be heard supporting the cause,such as David Suzuki and Col. Chris Hadfield, the former commanderof the International Space Station. In fact, Hadfield participated in lastyear’s Music Monday from the International Space Station, singing“I.S.S. (Is Somebody Singing),” which he co-wrote with BarenakedLadies’ Ed Robertson. This year’s event will conclude with a synchronizednationwide performance of I.S.S. with Chris Hadfield, nowback on planet Earth, participating, and led by Bramwell Tovey, theconductor of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.The initiative has also attracted considerable financial support frommany different sources, not the least of which is TD Bank, which hasdonated in excess of ,000 to this year’s Music Monday. With aproven track record of support for music and for community-buildinginitiatives, Nimmons told me, TD has been a supporter of the Coalitionin the past, but this year’s contribution is particularly significant.“Music Monday will celebrate the best in music education, showingwhat is possible,” Nimmons says, “not only for those schools currentlyfortunate enough to have excellent music programs but also for thoseschools that are less fortunate.” The aim is to motivate people everywhereto take action to support the implementation of effective musiceducation programs in the province or territory in which they live.The long-term goal of the Coalition, Nimmons points out, is to builda critical mass of people who recognize the value of music educationin the public elementary and secondary schools. A central focusof this goal is the engagement of young people, the voters, leadersand decision-makers of tomorrow. With a million participants in lastyear’s Music Monday and, with any luck, even more this year, theCoalition is well on its way to achieving what it has set out to do.So, wherever you are at noon on Monday, May 5, whether it be atthe office, at home or at school, go to and follow thelink to the webcast. We can all begin to support the much-neededrevitalization of music education, simply by connecting with otherswho share our conviction.Co-founder of The WholeNote, flutist and music teacherAllan Pulker can be reached at allan@thewholenote.comNASA74 | May 1, 2014 – June 7, 2014

DISCOVERIES | RECORDINGS REVIEWEDTwo months ago while writing aboutRichard Powers’ Orfeo I mentioned thatI had neglected to add Steve Reich’sProverb to my record collection when itcame out on Nonesuch in 1996 featuring PaulHillier’s Theatre of Voices with Steve ReichandMusicians. Although that recording isnowa collector’s item (but still availablefordownload), I am pleased to note thatthere is a new recording which features thislushwork for three soprano and two tenorvoices, two vibraphones and two synthesizers(sounding vaguely like small baroque organs,)performed by theSWR Vokalensemble,Stuttgart under thedirection of MarcusCreed. America(Hänssler Classic CD93.306) also includeschoral works byAaron Copland (FourMotets), John Cage (Five), Morton Feldman(Rothko Chapel), Leonard Bernstein (MissaBrevis) and Samuel Barber (A Stopwatchandan Ordnance Map). It is an eclectic mixof mostly religious works spanning much ofthe20th century. Copland’s motets date fromhisstudent days in Paris and they evidentlyso impressed his teacher, Nadia Boulanger,thatshe used them as examples for severalDAVID OLDSdecades. Copland himself we are told in theliner notes was less fond, declaring them“schoolboy works exhibiting some influenceof Mussorgsky, whom I greatly admiredback then. They may in a certain sense satisfycuriosity – people may perhaps like to knowwhat I did as a student – but it is not reallymy style.” That being said, they do providea warm and welcoming opening to the disc,albeit with occasional moments of closeharmonies and dissonance, in the alternatingmovements of entreaty to and praise of God.Rather than a biblical text, Reich’s Proverbdraws on a sentence from the philosopherLudwig Wittgenstein – “How small a thoughtit takes, to fill a whole life” – and treats itin a number of ways over the course of 14minutes. At times reminiscent of Reich’s 1981Tehillim, although much more subdued, itis also evocative of the organa which Perotinintroduced c.1200. This is followed by a fairlylate work by John Cage, Five, composed in1988 as one of the 52 Number Pieces whichoccupied much of the last six years of his life.As with many of Cage’s “compositions” thereis a set of instructions rather than a score perse, with many of the creative decisions left tothe performers. In this case each of five actorsis simply given five pitches to sing withinprescribed “time brackets” and left to decidewhen to actually begin and end. As suchthe result will be different in each performance.I found this rendition mildly akin to astreamlined version of Ligeti’s Lux Aeternamade so familiar in the soundtrack of 2001: ASpace Odyssey.Morton Feldman’s piece was composed in1971 for performance in the non-denominationalchapel of the same name in Houston,Texas designed as a place of quiet meditation,which houses 14 site-specific paintingsby Mark Rothko. The music, nearlyhalf an hour in length, scored for soprano,alto and mixed choir with one percussion(timpani, vibraphone), celesta and viola, isindeed very meditative. The singers’ etherealvocalise can at times be mistaken for electronictextures and the instruments, especiallythe viola, enjoy long solo passages thatare at least as important as the voices in thisquiet masterpiece.Like Cage’s Five, Bernstein’s Missa Brevisdates from 1988 and is a late work in thecomposer’s oeuvre. This mostly a cappellasetting of the Catholic mass was written foran adaptation of Jean Anouilh’s play TheLark. Once again the voices are accompanied(intermittently) by percussion (timpani,tambourine and bells). Samuel Barber isrepresented by a relatively early work (1940)which is quite modern, at least in the contextof this relatively conservative composer. Oncethat she used them as examples for several when to actually begin and end. As such of this relatively conservative composer. OnceMELISSA TREMBLAYMay’s Child Alexander DobsonBaritone Alexander Dobson lives in Mille End, Montreal, with hisson, aged 8, and his fiancée. Pastimes include running,washing the dishes, playing street hockey and repairinghis ancient BMW.Earliest musical memories? My grandmother used tosing to me as a baby. I have no recollection of the melodybut I remember the words: Ayayaya ... As a result I calledher “Yaya” her whole life. My parents had a great recordcollection and I loved listening next to their large speakers sin the living room. My earliest favourites were Peter andthe Wolf and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band.WE ARE ALL MUSIC’S CHILDRENMJ BUELLMy mother always had the radio on the classical stationat home. At RSGC we had services three times a week sosinging became part of everyday life.A first music teacher? My first huge musical influencewas Jean Ashworth Bartle who was a true pioneer withthe TCC – we learned a great deal from her. Many of hersingers are still enjoying making music professionally orjust for pleasure. She instilled a high level of professionalismin us, and this has carried me through my career …A longer Alexander Dobson interview continues atthewholenote.comCONGRATULATIONS TO OUR WINNERS!Taliker Players’ A Poets Love (May 27 & 28, 8pm) features works by Fauré, Schumann, Rapoport and Beckwith: twogreat romantic song cycles, and two eloquently lyrical Canadian pieces with guest artists Alexander Dobson and actor/reader Stewart Arnott in spoken word selections. Shawn Kazubowski-Houston (Toronto) and Catherine McWhinnie(Burlington) each win a pair of tickets.Soundstreams presents Airline Icarus (June 3-8), “a new opera that unfurls above the clouds, inspired by our ancientdreams of flight,” set entirely in a plane bound for Cleveland! Composer Brian Current conducts. Cast includes KrisztinaSzabó and Alexander Dobson, who says: “Brian Current’s music is amazing. He finds that balance of being accessible butstill challenging the listener.” Boarding passes await Greer Roberts (Ajax) and Sharon Barclay (Richmond Hill).Talisker Players’ CD Where Words and Music Meet celebrates their tenth anniversary season with some favourite music from their firstdecade of concerts with Teri Dunn, Norine Burgess, Krisztina Szabo, Vicki St. Pierre, Geoffrey Butler, Doug MacNaughton, and AlexanderDobson. We’re sending a copy each to Bill Wilson (Etobicoke) and Deborah Davis (Toronto)Music’s Children gratefully acknowledges Francine, Ori, Ben & Sarah, Carol & May 1, 2014 – June 7, 2014 | 75

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